In the performance piece “Empty,” the artist repeatedly writes the Chinese calligraphy character “empty” until the entire sheet of paper is filled with black ink. However, the simplicity and literal meaning of the word “empty” make it difficult for Chinese-speaking audiences to connect with the work on a deeper level, undermining the artist’s intention to explore the idea of emptiness.
For non-Chinese-speaking audiences, the performance becomes a mysterious and impenetrable black box, with the artist separated from the audience by a wall of language and cultural barriers. As a result, the audience is left feeling disconnected and unable to fully engage with the work, while the artist indulges in self-admiration behind the wall of ink.
While the artist’s attempt to break free from constraints and overthinking is admirable, the performance ultimately falls into formalism. To truly connect with an audience, artworks must go beyond just the effort and completion of form and strive to resonate with viewers on a deeper level.
In terms of form, the artist’s choice of yellow practice paper has its own reasons, but writing the characters directly on the ground could create a stronger impact and depart even further from the original context of calligraphy. The act of writing could be given more imaginative space and potentially become even more powerful.
In addition, exploring other content beyond calligraphy and writing, such as painting lines or graphics, could bring a fresh and interesting perspective to the performance. By stripping away the inherent impression of calligraphy, the artist could create something entirely new and unexpected, challenging the audience to engage with the work in a different way.
In the end, “Empty” highlights the importance of breaking free from artistic constraints and striving for deeper connections with audiences. While the artist’s initial attempt may have fallen short, the work serves as a starting point for further exploration and experimentation in the realm of performance art.